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Why Global Warming Is Irreversible Part I

Updated on October 7, 2008

Global Warming is too serious for the world any longer to ignore its danger or split into opposing factions on it. - Tony Blair

A frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster. - Barack Obama

You have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history. - Osama bin Laden

Climate change is no longer a doomsday prophecy, it's a reality. - Astrid Heiberg, President, International Red Cross

Unrestrained combustion of fossil fuels potentially is the most important environmental issue facing mankind. - U.S. Department of Energy Report

O Lord, to thee will I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness. - King James Bible, Joel 1:19-20

For the first time in history, my community has had to use air conditioners. Imagine that, air conditioners in the Arctic. - Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Inuit Leader

Recognizing the problem of potential global climate change, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. On May 4, 2007 the IPCC released the majority of the Working Group III Fourth Assessment Report, providing information on long-term mitigation strategies for various stabilization levels, paying special attention to implications of different short-term strategies for achieving long-term goals. It also addresses the relationship between mitigation and sustainable development. - IPCC Report

The IPCC appears to lack the necessary expertise. The result is all too likely to be bad policy, at potentially heavy cost to the world economy. - The Economist

The final IPCC WGIII Fourth Assessment Report on Expected Climate Change (ECC) was recently released. It contained hard, indisputable data which confronts the momentous issues that challenge the continued existence of our civilization. But at the same time it was a profoundly flawed document.

  • The IPCC report states that "climate policy involves trading off risks and uncertainties... from missing, incomplete and imperfect evidence, from voluntary or involuntary limits to information management, from difficulties in incorporating some variables into formal analysis, as well as from the inherently unpredictable elements of complex systems." This can be summarized as: We don't know how to reverse ECC, don't have the tools to reverse ECC and can't predict the effects of any attempts to reverse ECC.
  • One of the major keywords in the IPCC report is "uncertainty." This uncertainty is clearly evident in this particular long-term context. Stabilization targets are still many years away from being set and mitigation theories are barely on the horizon. The proposals on carbon-free energy and decarbonization allow for massive increases in consumer energy costs and only provide less than 1% of world energy requirements. The RD&D investment patterns do not take into consideration that the sums envisioned exceed global GDP by factors of magnitude.
  • In light of GreenHouse Gas (GHG) emissions from energy supplies by 2030, the conversion technologies are effectively non-existent. The proposals on nuclear energy discount the economic reality and the population fear of increasing nuclear output a hundred-fold or more. The global CO2 Capture & Storage projects envisioned would barely account for the emissions of a single small American town, and at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars per capita. The options for sufficient GHG-free renewable energy would translate in a cost in the hundreds of dollars per Kilowatt.
  • The estimates of world mitigation costs and potentials in 2030 are one of the most skewed data series in this IPCC report. The embrace of Hydrogen Vehicle FuelCells does not take into consideration the massive electricity required to generate the hydrogen from water. Contrail pollution which is an acknowledged major contributor to Global Dimming is unaddressed. The CO2 emission through the economics of worldwide shipping at costs below $1000 per 40'FCL container are unchallenged. The inertia which will be presented in weaning 6.7+ billion people from internal combustion engines and to some as yet unknown and undefined "clean and sustainable" alternative is enormously underestimated.
  • While just "suffering from the heat" may be a possible solution to air-conditioning-related emissions in the tropics, the situation is quite different in the cooler latitudes where emissions are generated by necessary heating. Even R2000 construction still requires a heat source and to date, there is no CO2-free proposal that even remotely addresses these energy requirements.
  • The GHG mitigation proposals for industry would effectively create a Weimar-Republic-type global hyper-inflationary spiral, and/or bankrupt the vast majority of global manufacturers. The report fails to take into consideration that a large percentage of industrial GHG emissions are CO2-related and thus fall into the same quandary as the closely related transportation sector.
  • The report utilizes modern-day agricultural practices as the baseline and attempts to locate the elusive stabilization and mitigation strategies within that context. It fails to comprehend that the levels of deforestation and artificial land uses which are directly relevant to ECC and desertification have already occurred and the baseline needs to be drawn prior to the Ancient Greeks turning the forests of their nation to scrub-brush and later generations paving over huge swaths of the world.
  • Mills in British Columbia report receiving 100% of their pine dead and unusable from the ECC-linked beetle attacks. The consequences of ECC are not only linked to deforestation and desertification, but to the changing infestation patterns of new warming-driven pests into new environmental niches around the world. The haplessness of this report is highlighted by Chapter 9.6.4: "Policies to increase substitution of forest-derived biofuels for fossil fuels..." certainly by increasing forest harvests? It also does not take into consideration that cellulosic ethanol is not exactly a practical CO2-free automotive-applicable biofuel.
  • The amount of global waste to be treated, landfilled and/or incinerated defies any remotely economically-feasible proposal. The total tonnage of properly recycled waste is wholly insignificant as compared to the world-wide whole and this comes after over two decades of major international recycling promotion. NMVOCs and combustion emissions obviate expansion of incineration efforts. Biological, anaerobic and MBT processes can't handle the majority of landfill mass and even pose problems in expanding their role in sewage treatment.
  • The Post-Kyoto analysis of sectoral emission potentials is woefully inaccurate. The costs of mitigation regardless of likely endogenous or exogenous technological development are underestimated by trillions of dollars and the impact on a global economy that would have to support these crushing financial demands. The price level estimates required for deep mid-century emission reductions are but a mere fraction of the realistic expectation.
  • The report attempts to argue that lower emission pathways are not necessarily associated with lower economic growth, and the basic fallacy in their statement is one of magnitude. Certainly it is theoretically possible to maintain current approximate economic growth figures with a lower emission pathway of 1% or in a few scenarios even 2%. However, such a lower emission path does not even balance out the growth in the human population, let alone the rapid industrialization of 1.3 billion Chinese and 1 billion Indians. The basic factor which is being completely disregarded is that there are such levels of GHGs in the atmosphere today that ECC will worsen for the next 140 years without adding a single molecule. Keeping pace with human population growth and industrialization patterns and even decreasing that ongoing new GHG level by 1% or 2% will do absolutely nothing to stave off the ECC climatic effects that will be suffered during the rest of this century and the next.
  • Intergovernmental relations are the most pronounced "illusion" part of the report. The various national policy instruments, international climate change agreements and interactions with private, local and non-governmental initiatives clearly point to the reality that not only is there no global climate change policy, but it is highly unlikely to be one in the next few decades. This would not be actually acting to truly mitigate the ECC effects, but just coming to an agreement as to how this could be accomplished!

Continued in Part II


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